The climate crisis threatens human health in innumerable ways including injury from extreme weather events, respiratory illness, zoonoses, water-borne, vector borne, and non-communicable diseases, malnutrition, behavioral health and psychosocial problems and finally heat related illnesses and death. Climate crisis-related health effects are and will be particularly be hard felt by the elderly and children and within minority communities. For example, The Lancet's most recent “Countdown on Health and Climate Change” report found heat-related deaths in people older than 65 reached a record high of 345,000 in 2019, or 81% higher than the 2000-2005 average. Children under one year of age experienced an estimated 626 million additional person days of heatwave exposure in 2020 comparted to a 1986-2005 baseline average. Despite these numbers, a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report found countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), or pledges by governments to reduce their carbon emissions, found that only 13% of NDCs commit to quantifying the health co-benefits of carbon emission reduction policies. Listeners may recall I interviewed Professor Ebi in November 2018 concerning the UN IPCC's landmark report, "Global Warming at 1.5º C." At: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/.
During this 3o minute interview Professor Ebi begins by making brief comment on the just concluded COP 26 meeting. Professor Ebi then explains the impetus for the "Heat and Health" series, explains the physiological responses to heat stress, discusses health threats via occupation and the urban heat island effect. She next discusses the second article in the series that identified strategies to address heat extremes in senior care settings and in hospitals and nursing homes ,or the importance of response planning for heat waves including the use of action plans and early warning systems by among others emergency and public health departments. The discussion concludes with comments concerning related core competency education efforts at the University of Washington and the economic benefits resulting from climate crisis mitigation efforts.
Kristie L. Ebi is Professor in the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington. She has been conducting research and practice on the health risks of climate variability and change for nearly 25 years, focusing on understanding sources of vulnerability; estimating current impacts and future health risks; designing adaptation policies and measures to reduce the risks of the climate crisis in multi-stressor environments; and estimating the health co-benefits of mitigation policies. She has supported multiple countries in Central America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific in assessing their vulnerability and implementing adaptation measures. She has been an author on multiple national and international climate change assessments. She has more than 200 publications and has edited fours books on aspects of the climate crisis. Professor Ebi earned her BS at Michigan State, her MS at MIT and her MPH and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan.
The Lancet's recently published "Heat and Health" series is at: https://www.thelancet.com/series/heat-and-health.
The World Health Organization's (WHO's) recent report, "The Health Argument for Climate Action," referenced during this interview, is at: https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/cop26-special-report.